Earlier this year, I had the privilege to conduct an exclusive one-on-one interview with the Green Party’s 2016 Presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein. The following is an unedited and uncensored take on politics, America, the shape of the 2016 elections, and her vision for our nation’s future.
Adam Dodd: “Your main 2016 platform is the “Power to the People” agenda. In it is a pledge to fully convert the nation’s energy toward clean and renewable sources by 2030. This could be a drastic shift in just fifteen years for some. What do you envision being the major hurdles in accomplishing this?”
Jill Stein: “It’s important to put this in context. When Pearl Harbor was bombed at the start of the Second World War we had an economy that was completely unprepared for a war effort. It took six months to basically to transition to a war economy, and that was from 0% to 25% of the gross GDP. That happened in six months because we recognized a national emergency. Well, right now, we have, not only a national emergency, but a global emergency. It’s clear that we need to address this, to fix this. It’s also clear that in fixing it, we not only deal with the climate threat, we can also deal with the emergency for our economy. That’s the essence of what my administration would do, which is to clarify that this is indeed an emergency. My background, as you know, is as a medical doctor. My job as a doctor, as any medical professional, is to, above all, recognize when there truly is an emergency threat. Well, there is now. And actually, the public understands that, but the public doesn’t know that it can be solved.
“There’s this myth out there that we have to choose between the economy and the environment and that’s a false myth. It’s used to divide us and conquer us. In fact there’s a win/win solution for us which addresses both of these emergencies in terms of revising our economy by creating the jobs that we need to get people out of poverty and back to work, at the same time we transition to a green economy. So the chief hurdle is to be heard and to clarify that this is an emergency that we can fix and in fact wind up much better for it. This is a win/win waiting to happen.
“And let me add, I see the role of the President as being not just a Commander-In-Chief, but being an Organizer-In-Chief. We’ve had heads of nations, and I don’t just mean the last president, that’s working for big money special interests and lobbyists. We need to have elected officials that are working for the public interest. We’re in a historic moment now. We’re facing unprecedented crisis. It demands a transformative solution. Part of that is getting government to start working of, by, and for the people.”
AD: “In your plan, you want to replace unemployment offices with employment offices. What would that look like, and how would it change the job market?”
JS: “The main difference is that instead of giving you money to go home and sit around and feel unconnected and unemployed and unproductive, which isn’t good to feel, these places would plug you into a job. The Green New Deal, as it’s proposed, has several different kinds of jobs, so it would provide grants and subsidies to community based small businesses. It would also provide incentives for community and worker-owned co-operatives. A lot of public jobs as well. For example, there would be a variety to choose from, building major transportation systems and ecosystem restoration.”
AD: You wanted to abolish student loan debt. Beyond that, is there a fundamental change that needs to happen within the structure of U.S. higher education? Is this a systemic problem or does it just come down to the predatory loans?
JS: “There are two pieces to our proposal. The first is abolishing existing debt, and the second is making higher education free. A big problem in our higher education system, especially private, but public as well, there’s been a big emphasis on bloated administrations, on athletic facilities, and high cost sports clubs. There’s this competition based on frills. We need to get back in the business of funding teaching and teaching staffs, and dispensing with the high-cost high-frill budgets. Right now, young people face this double-whammy where it’s easier to get a job but you wind up with loans you can’t repay, but if you don’t go to college the odds of being unemployed are very high. If we forgave the bankers whose waste, fraud, and abuse crashed the economy, we can certainly forgive the debt of an entire generation of young people who are basically indentured servants for life. This is an outrage that should not be tolerated. What we point out to people is that Millennials and people in debt have the power to fix this. At forty million people and counting, if word gets out that people can go to the polls and vote to get rid of their debt, that’s enough votes to actually accomplish that, especially in a three-way race.
AD: You mentioned wanting to democratize the Federal Reserve System. What would that look like and how would it differ from our current model?
JS: The current model is hidden from view and the decisions are made by private banks, very big private Wall Street banks. So we would have a very different board and very different mission. The mission of the Fed is to maintain full employment not just to control inflation, but they’ve sort of forgotten about that first part. We can expand on the existing mission and achieve that mission but expand on it. We need to have a representative public body and the work needs to be transparent, and not secretive, which is how it currently works.
AD: Last election, you were arrested for trying to enter the Presidential debates after being barred from entry, even though you were on the ballot. This election, the Republican primary debates have been a circus and there has been nothing but relentless accusations that the head of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, is playing favorites. What is your own personal take on the current state of Presidential debates?
JS: “To put it in a nutshell, Adam, the Democratic and Republican parties took over the debates in the 1980’s. The debates had been run by the League of Women Voters, but truth be told, the debates were never really clearly established as a public institution but they have this name, the Commission on Presidential Debates, so you think it’s actually this public service. It’s not, it’s actually a private corporation run by the Democratic and Republican parties. When the parties joined the debate committee, the League of Women Voters quit in disgust saying that it was a fraud being perpetrated on the American people because the Republicans and Democrats insisted on total control over the questioners, and therefore the questions asked, over the audience. This isn’t a real sampling of the public. This is a carefully controlled audience in order to create the impression that there is support for things like austerity budgets and cutting taxes for the rich and exporting our jobs with the Trans Pacific Partnership and committing more catastrophic foreign policy. You’ve got people that are cheering for those types of things at the debates. These audiences are handpicked. The parties also insisted on controlling the press and who has access.
“This is a theatre of the absurd, and it continues. It’s intended to marginalize everyday people and make us feel like we’re the odd ones out, when in fact we are not. Our core values for community, democracy, justice, peace, this is how most Americans feel, but you would never know that having watched the debates where you have candidates that are basically picked by the “money primary” to be in it and then where the audience is handpicked by the party to represent their agendas. We have two lawsuits which are filed now with the Commission and we have a petition to open up those debates. I encourage people to go to our website and Facebook page to sign it.”
AD: In the past, you’ve spoken about voting through the politics of fear and the false narrative therein. Can you speak to the fallacy of voting for the lesser of two evils?
JS: “We’re constantly told that we who call for justice, who call for peace, those that want an environment we can live in, we’re told we’re the radical fringe. We’re not. We really are the core. The key that matters here is having the courage of our convictions, because the minute we stand up, we will look around and see that just about everyone else is standing up with us. Part of the politics of courage is voting for what we believe, not just voting against what we fear. The politics of fear have brought us basically everything that we’re afraid of.
“All those reasons we were told we had to bite our tongues and vote for the lesser of two evils so that we wouldn’t have these Wall Street bailouts, we wouldn’t have more off-shoring of our jobs, these attacks on our civil liberties, or the expanding wars or the climate meltdown, that’s exactly what we’ve gotten by silencing the principle of opposition. You have two parties that are funded by the same big banks, fossil fuels, and profiteers. We have to stand up with the courage of our convictions and forget the lesser evil and fight for the greater good.”
AD: “Aside from voting Green in November, what can people do to learn more about the Green Party, its message, and how to help out?”
JS: “It’s really critical to get involved now to get the word out because corporate media is not going to do the job for us. If people are connected to colleges, universities, high schools, we’re setting up campus chapters because that’s where the real energy for change is. If you go to jill2016.com you can sign the volunteer form and you can also sign up to start a chapter, a Young Greens Rising chapter, and we bring you into the phone calls, the livestreaming events, house parties, flyers, materials, etc, and we’ll help you set up a campus chapter to get the word out. We got the numbers, we got the solutions, we got the vision, come on board and hold onto your hat, because we’re going to change the world.”
AD: And lastly, what does Jill Stein like to do while in between campaigning to unwind?
JS: “(Laughs) Truth be told, I like to cook, usually healthy, usually vegetarian, mostly organic. I often go shopping and I cook and that’s what keeps me sane on the campaign trail.”
AD: Thanks for your time, Dr. Stein…
JS: “No, thank you.”
AD: You like the way November is shaping up for the Green Party?
JS: “(Laughs) Well… we’re on the ballot in Ohio at least, so there’s that. That’s a good start, yeah?”